Cave Church of Las Mesas de Villaverde, Ardales

Publicado: 06/08/2012: 3976

Located near Ardales, it is popularly known as "Church of Bobastro".

The second half of the ninth century was characterized by the re-adjustment of the different social groups (Arabs, Islamists from North Africa, Jews, Hispanics converted to Islam—Muladis—and Hispanics who had remained Christian —Mozarabs), in a time when the balance of power was not fully consolidated. These factors, coupled with attempts at independence and the pressure from the Carolingians, were a breeding ground for the emergence of the military strategist Omar ibn Hafsun.

In 880 he brought together a party of Berbers, Mozarabs and Muladis who, unhappy with the Arab aristocracy, took up arms against the emirate from an inaccessible castle named Bobastro in the annals. The uprising eventually occupied a large part of Andalusia, including most of the lands of Malaga and Granada. In the year 899 Omar ibn Hafsun converted to Christianity, apparently to win the aid of Alfonso III; although in this he did not succeed. This decision, sowed the seeds of his defeat, led him to create a Christian bishopric in Bobastro and to build a basilica, the only Mozarabic building which still stands in Al-Andalus.

In the nineteenth century, F. J. Simonet and C. de Mergelina discovered the remains of a large town, which had been superbly fortified in Las Mesas de Villaverde, and the ruins of what seems to have been the Episcopal Basilica of Bobastro, hewn from a single large sandstone rock.

Today, after years of neglect, the site is once more accessible and information boards have been erected. Recently, the remains of another three-nave eclesiastical building, of which we know nothing more, has been discovered.


Around the rock to the west, the natural shape of the stone becomes a set of walls, horseshoe arches and pilasters carved in the stone itself. The prominent rock that we see from the south face becomes, on the north face, the very well-defined remains of a three nave church, forming a monolithic whole dug from the rock, on which a large courtyard as also been carved. There, a water cistern and the remains of other service buildings have also been preserved.

Today, traces of the entire area of the basilica are still standing, but for a small part of the northwest corner. Along these remains, the height of the walls drops from south to north so that the two walls of the south aisle are more than three metres in height. The pillars which divide the main and north naves are of different heights: the highest one just over two meters high and the outer north walls significantly lower. 

Halfway between history and legend, this incredible monolithic building and its surroundings, in Las Mesas de Villaverde, are still waiting for an in-depth archaeological study to be carried out. In the interim, thanks to its location, beautiful landscape and its amazing features, it offers visitors a stunning image of our history at the end of the first millennium.

Autor: Francisco Aranda Otero//translation: LINGUA FUTURA

Autor: Francisco Aranda Otero//translation: LINGUA FUTURA